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Hoping American Sign Language Can Find a Home at DHS

Why Dallastown is the perfect school to incorporate ASL as a World Language.

Three+Dallastown+students+spell+out+the+letters+A%2CS%2CL+which+stand+for+American+Sign+Language.+Some+schools+provide+ASL+as+a+world+language+course.+
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Hoping American Sign Language Can Find a Home at DHS

Three Dallastown students spell out the letters A,S,L which stand for American Sign Language. Some schools provide ASL as a world language course.

Three Dallastown students spell out the letters A,S,L which stand for American Sign Language. Some schools provide ASL as a world language course.

Katelyn Moran-Pearlman

Three Dallastown students spell out the letters A,S,L which stand for American Sign Language. Some schools provide ASL as a world language course.

Katelyn Moran-Pearlman

Katelyn Moran-Pearlman

Three Dallastown students spell out the letters A,S,L which stand for American Sign Language. Some schools provide ASL as a world language course.

Katelyn Moran-Pearlman, Reporter

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Imagine not being able to use your voice, but rather using your hands to communicate as a whole language.

American Sign Language (ASL) has existed for over 200 years, specifically in the United States. ASL is the primary language of an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 Americans who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

In fact, many colleges and some high schools are now providing courses in ASL as an option for world language credit. Dallastown should be one of those schools.

There are many reasons why Dallastown is the perfect school to offer ASL as a World Language.

First, Dallastown hosts the only LIU high school program in the county for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HH) students. This means that all Deaf/HH students from York County in grades K-12 attend Dallastown schools. 

It is common for Dallastown students to have been in classes since elementary school with Deaf/HH students and their interpreters. This exposure to a new language can create an intellectual curiosity and a desire to learn.

Interpreters are often assigned to Deaf children for mainstream classes, and many DHS students have expressed that they often stare at the interpreter and get fascinated enough to ask about learning to sign. 

This curiosity has even led Dallastown to start a sign language club. ASL club members Daniel Lintz and Brittany Loken, both sophomores, said, “We meet on Day 2, in Mr. Haid’s room. We enjoy going to the club and learning new signs each week.”

The interest in learning ASL in a more formal way definitely exists at DHS.

Freshmen Amaia Rittner and Candace Martinez said they would want to take ASL as a language. 

“Absolutely! It’s such a wonderful opportunity to learn sign language.”

They aren’t alone.

Junior Megan Johnson, stated, “I think American Sign Language should be provided as a world language because I think that not enough high schoolers know sign language to communicate with others who aren’t able to have equal access as everyone else does.”

Some may disagree with ASL being taught as a language because unlike more common world languages such as Spanish and French, the number of speakers is not as high. I understand that not every language can be offered in school. In  fact, linguists estimate that there are approximately 6,500 languages spoken in the world today. About 2,000 of these languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers. 

Japanese has over 125 million native speakers, but DHS doesn’t offer it as an official language. However, the school does make it possible for students to take online courses and to learn. If there is significant interest in ASL, the school should make it possible for students to learn that language as well. 

Some may say that American Sign Language is not a language, because it is not spoken. However, linguists point to a wealth of research published since the 1960s that supports the idea that ASL is a language because it has its own grammar and syntax. The basis of the language is that some sign is used to represent whole words and even sentences.

It is difficult for Deaf/HH people communicate with people in public who don’t know sign. There is a cultural barrier between the hearing and Deaf communities. 

Students in the Dallastown Deaf and Hard of Hearing classroom reported feeling that teenagers in this school don’t want to make the effort to try and talk to them because of the amount of effort required.

Dallastown needs to break that cultural barrier. Yes, Dallastown High School has a club provided for high schoolers who want to learn sign language and a ton of resources that help Deaf/HH individuals, but that is not enough. Dallastown needs to allow EVERYONE to learn how to communicate with others in this practical, vibrant, world language– ASL.

DHS principal Dr. Fletcher is not opposed to the idea, but there are many factors that go into the process of course approval including staffing, funding, and school board approval.

“If a good foundational club occurs then we would put that in consideration,” Fletcher said. 

Dallastown needs to allow EVERYONE to learn how to communicate with others in this practical, vibrant, world language– ASL.”

Although administrative support is appreciated, there isn’t a large Spanish club at Dallastown compared to the number of students who take Spanish. Also, some students interested in ASL as a class may not able to join a club because of conflicts with other after-school activities.

Dallastown teacher of the Deaf/HH, Mr. Haid, agrees that ASL as a world language is a valid idea.

“People could learn a language that can be utilized in many situations where English fails,” Haid said.

Deaf people often miss what is being communicated with the “real world.” That is unfair to others because it’s the same as someone with a different native language who is without full access to communication.

People will gesture if they are trying to emphasize something or communicate without sign to people in public, but gesturing and ASL are NOT the same. That is the way we can change because if people are interested in learning, an elective would help.

There should be an option for ASL as a world language at Dallastown because students are very interested. By learning to speak ASL and by learning it’s history, DHS students can work with the Deaf community to communicate with one another and to break the cultural barrier. 

3 Comments

3 Responses to “Hoping American Sign Language Can Find a Home at DHS”

  1. Michele Wallace on January 18th, 2019 3:25 pm

    I would love to teach this!!

  2. Linda Wilson on January 18th, 2019 4:27 pm

    This is a great idea!

  3. Kathryn Liptrap on January 19th, 2019 1:48 pm

    Wonderful article! Thanks so much for sharing!!

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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